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Five more gTLDs get launch dates

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2024, Domain Registries

Internet Naming Co has revealed the launch dates for the five dormant gTLDs it acquired late last year.

The company plans to go to Sunrise with .diy, .food, .lifestyle, .living, and .vana on January 24, according to ICANN records.

Before general availability on March 6, there’ll be a week-long Early Access Period, with prices starting at $25,000 wholesale and decreasing daily to settle at GA prices.

Unusually, and I think uniquely, there’s also going to be a 24-hour “Customer Loyalty Period” on February 28/29, which has the same prices as day one of EAP.

INCO CEO Shayan Rostam told me this period “gives us the opportunity to provision domains to certain existing customers or partners after sunrise but before GA.” He described it as a “1-day pioneer program phase for the registry.”

The five gTLDs were bought from Lifestyle Domain Holdings last year, as the would-be registry carried on dumping or selling off its portfolio of long-unused gTLDs.

.vana was a brand, but INCO plans to use it to do something as-yet-unrevealed related to blockchain naming systems. .diy refers to “Do It Yourself”, the practice of carrying out home improvements or repairs without hiring professional experts.

All of the five will be unrestricted. They’ve all been moved to the Tucows back-end registry service provider.

Seven domain hacks already registered in Google’s .ing

Kevin Murphy, October 16, 2023, Domain Registries

Some companies are using their trademarks to grab potentially valuable domain hacks in the upcoming .ing gTLD, possibly avoiding having to cough up seven figures for them later on.

There’s about a week left on Google Registry’s .ing sunrise period, but some hacks have already started showing up in the .ing zone file. Not counting those that look like they belong to Google, I count seven so far:

  • adapt.ing
  • design.ing
  • draw.ing
  • dumpl.ing
  • edit.ing
  • giv.ing
  • sign.ing

None of them resolve to web sites from where I’m sitting and Whois is pretty much useless nowadays other than to confirm that the registration dates that fell within the .ing sunrise, which began September 20.

edit.ing and sign.ing both have Adobe-owned name servers, which may give an indication of who registered those names.

To get a domain name during sunrise, you don’t necessarily need to have a famous brand, you only need to have a trademark recognized by the ICANN-approved Trademark Clearinghouse.

The trademark string can “cross the dot”, which may be what’s happened in the case of dumpl.ing and giv.ing.

Getting these potentially valuable generic domain hacks is particularly important in the case of .ing, where Google has set ludicrously high fees for its Early Access Period, which follows sunrise on October 31.

As first reported by Domain Name Wire, EAP prices start at $1.1 million retail.

Google to launch two fun new gTLDs next month

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2023, Domain Registries

Google Registry is continuing its piecemeal rollout of new gTLDs with the launch of .ing and .meme this September.

Both TLDs will go to sunrise for a month from September 20, with general availability from December 5.

While both will have more-expensive Early Access Period phases, .meme is also getting a Limited Registration Period where “only content creation platforms specializing in the creation and distribution of internet memes may apply”.

While .meme is a pretty self-explanatory regular TLD with standard amount of long-tail potential, I think .ing might be the first TLD ever to launch with domain hacks as the primary envisaged use case.

Google gave “design.ing or writ.ing, ink.ing or row.ing” as potential domains.

There are a finite number of English verbs that would work well with a .ing suffix, potentially limiting registrations. I doubt the TLD will pass the 50,000 name threshold at which ICANN starts charging transaction fees, unless some other use cases are found.

Domainers not welcome as .music readies September launch

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2023, Domain Registries

The long-awaited .music gTLD finally has a set of launch dates, but it looks like actually registering and keeping hold of a name is going to be painful, especially for domain investors.

DotMusic has filed its registry launch plans with ICANN, kicking off with a two-month sunrise period on September 11. General availability seems to be slated for April 9 next year.

Before the floodgates open, there’s going to be a “Community Organization Phase” from October 16 to March 10. Judging by registry policy documents, this phase looks like an extended sunrise for “music community” members that may not necessarily qualify for regular sunrise.

It looks like applying during this phase will be free, but there will be auctions for contested names.

At all stages including GA, it looks like people will be able to register .music names as usual via registrars, but then DotMusic will carry out a post-registration check that the registrant has sufficiently high musical street cred and the name closely matches their brand.

It will delete registrations that fail to meet these criteria. Indeed, it does not consider names truly “registered” until they have past these verification checks.

The registry has come up with something called a “Music Score” — I don’t know whether that’s an intentional pun — to determine whether a registrant is eligible for a .music domain.

It’s not really clear whether this is a numerical score with a pass/fail threshold, but calculating it requires the registrant to submit evidence of intellectual property, awards, social media activity, streams, and so on — 73 categories in total.

Registrants also have to demonstrate a nexus to their domain, so Napalm Death couldn’t register justinbieber.music, for example.

These verifications will be handled by a third-party company called ID.music (the domain does not currently resolve) which is also based in DotMusic’s home nation of Cyprus.

If all of this palaver isn’t enough to deter casual registrants and domainers, there’s a strict prohibition on “domain warehousing”. The policy states “the buying and holding of MTLD domain names as assets for resale, especially in bulk is prohibited”.

Record companies will be able to register their acts in bulk, if they’re approved by DotMusic, but domainers are not welcome.

The policy also bans privacy/proxy services.

Google to drop EIGHT new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2023, Domain Registries

Google Registry has announced launch details for eight new gTLDs that it has been sitting on for almost a decade.

It plans to launch .foo, .zip, .mov, .nexus, .dad, .phd, .prof and .esq over the coming couple of months, with all eight following the same launch schedule.

Sunrise will begin this weekend, April 2, and run for a month. The Early Access Periods will run for a week up until May 10, when they’re all go into general availability.

The .zip and .mov spaces will be worth keeping an eye on, especially for those in the security space.

Both gTLDs match popular file extensions — for compressed data and video respectively — which could present opportunities for innovation among the internet’s more nefarious players, such as phishers and malware distributors.

.zip is for “tying things together or moving really fast”, Google said, while .mov is “for moving pictures and other things that move”.

All of the new spaces appear to be marketed at general audiences, with no registration restrictions.

Google reveals launch dates for two new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2022, Domain Registries

Google is slowly working through its backlog of unlaunched new gTLDs, this week announcing go-live dates for two dormant strings.

.boo and .rsvp will both follow the same launch schedule, with month-long Sunrise periods for trademark owners beginning October 4 and general availability starting November 15.

There will also be Early Access Periods, where names can be secured early for daily-decreasing premium fees, running from November 8 to November 15.

Google Registry described .boo as for those “building a website for love, laughs, or a surprise”, while .rsvp is for customers “celebrating a wedding, throwing a fundraiser, or accepting bookings for their business”.

They appear to be among the lightest-touch Google TLDs in terms of restrictions.

Google has been sitting on both gTLDs for over eight years.

Google to release another new gTLD next month

Kevin Murphy, November 19, 2021, Domain Registries

Google Registry is gearing up to unleash another gTLD from its stockpile of unreleased strings next month.

The gTLD is .day, one of over 100 that Google applied for in 2012 after a reported brainstorming session at the company.

According to its application:

The specialization goal of the proposed gTLD is to offer a new Internet environment that allows users to create and organize events that have or will occur on a particular day. The proposed gTLD will provide a single domain name hierarchy for Internet users globally to promote celebrations, such as a holi.day, wedding.day, or birth.day.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to see .day being a high-volume TLD along the lines of Google’s popular .app or .dev gTLDs.

While the company itself doesn’t seem to have addressed the launch publicly, it has given details to registrars and informed ICANN about its start-up dates.

It started a Qualified Launch Program program earlier this week. That’s where it gets to hand out a limited number of domains to hand-picked anchor tenants.

The sunrise period, restricted of course to trademarks, begins December 14 and ends January 24.

General availability starts January 25, according to registrars and ICANN records, with a seven-day Early Access Period during which domains can be purchased at daily-decreasing premium prices.

Full regular-price general availability begins February 1.

Virgin territory as GoDaddy pushes $30 million porn domain renewals

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2021, Domain Registries

Brand owners big and small are in for a potential surprise December 1, as their 10-year-old .xxx domain blocks expire and registrars bill their customers to convert them into a new annually-renewing GoDaddy service.

GoDaddy confirmed to DI today that it will “auto-convert” the old Sunrise B blocks, first sold by ICM Registry in 2011, to its new AdultBlock service, which provides essentially the same functionality but across four TLDs rather than one.

Tony Kirsch, head of professional services at GoDaddy Registry, said:

Registrars have been contacting all the Sunrise B owners and advising them that as of December 1 they will be grandfathered and automatically converted into an AdultBlock service, but they have a choice to expire that or stop that happening prior to December 1.

And if it is that they don’t do that before December 1, we’ll still give them a grace period of at least 45 days. If that happens they can then, as you’d normally do, just turn around to the registrar and say “We don’t want that” and we will of course refund the money.

This means that GoDaddy, which acquired .xxx and ICM from MMX earlier this year, is billing its .xxx registrar partners to convert and renew what could be as many as 81,000 Sunrise B blocks.

While the registry fee for AdultBlock has not been published, retail registrars I checked have priced the service at $370 to $400 per year, which we can probably assume is low-end pricing. Most .xxx domains are sold via the specialist brand-protection registrars like CSC and Markmonitor, which sometimes have more complex pricing.

So that’s something in the ballpark of $30 million worth of renewal invoices being sent out in the coming weeks, for something in many cases brand owners may have institutionally forgot about.

Kirsch said that AdultBlock was introduced by MMX about 18 months ago and that registrars have been preparing their customers for the Sunrise B expiration for some time.

Sunrise B was a program, unprecedented in the industry at the time, whereby trademark owners could pay a one-off fee — ICM charged its registrars about $160 wholesale — to have their brands removed from the available pool.

The domains exist in the .xxx zone file and resolve to a black page bearing the words “This domain has been reserved from registration”, but they’re not registered and usable like normal defensive or sunrise registrations would be.

Companies got to avoid not only the potential embarrassment of being porn-squatted, but also the hassle of having to explain to a tabloid reporter why they “owned” the .xxx domain in question.

The term of the Sunrise B block was 10 years. ICM told me at the time that this was because the company’s initial registry contract with ICANN only lasted for 10 years, so it was legally unable to sell longer-term blocks, but I’ve never been sure how much I buy that explanation.

Regardless, that 10 year period comes to an end in two weeks.

Because Sunrise B was unprecedented, this first renewal phase is also unprecedented. We’re in virgin territory (pun, of course, very much intended) here.

Will we see the industry’s first public “block junk drop”?

There are a number of reasons to believe trademark owners, assuming they don’t just blindly pay their registrar’s invoices, would choose to allow their blocks to expire or to ask for a refund after the fact.

First, the price has gone up — a lot.

While ICM charged $160 for a 10-year Sunrise B block (maybe marked up by registrars to a few hundred bucks) brand owners can expect to pay something like $3,000 retail for a single string blocked for 10 years.

But buyers do get a bit more bang for their buck. Unlike Sunrise B, AdultBlock also blocks the trademark in three additional GoDaddy-owned TLDs — .porn, .sex and .adult — as standard.

Kirsch said he expects buyers to see a 40% to 50% saving compared to the cost of defensively registering each domain individually.

Second, the appetite for defensive registrations has waned over the past 10 years, with trademark owners employing more nuanced approaches to brand protection, largely due to the flood of new gTLDs since 2013.

When .adult, .sex and .porn launched, without the possibility of Sunrise B blocks, they got about 2,000 regular sunrise registrations each. And that’s extraordinarily high — for most new gTLDs a couple hundred was a good turnout.

Third, the .xxx launch attracted a whole lot of controversy and overreaction, and the .xxx zone file today contains a lot of Sunrise B crap.

When I scrolled a little through the zone, cherry-picking silly-looking blocks in 2019, I found these examples:

100percentwholewheatthatkidslovetoeat.xxx, 101waystoleaveagameshow.xxx, 1firstnationalmergersandacquisitions.xxx, 1stchoiceliquorsuperstore.xxx, 2bupushingalltherightbuttons.xxx, 247claimsservicethesupportyouneed30minutesguaranteed.xxx, 3pathpowerdeliverysystembypioneermagneticsinc.xxx

Is it worth $400 a year to block the trademark “100 Percent Whole Wheat That Kids Love To Eat”? Is there any real danger of a cybersquatter going after that particular brand (apart from the fact that I’ve now written about it twice)?

Kirsch said a “small percentage” of Sunrise B owners have already said they don’t want to convert, but given that the rest will auto-convert, and that the registrars are doing all the customer-facing stuff, the company has limited visibility into likely uptake.

Brian King, director of policy at MarkMonitor, told us: “We generally encourage our clients to consider blocks. They can be cost effective and a lot of times clients would rather have their brand be unavailable without having to register in TLDs where they don’t want to own domain registrations for any number of reasons.”

One reason brand owners may want to consider converting to AdultBlock — it’s rumored that GoDaddy will be relaxing its eligibility criteria for .xxx next year, removing the requirement for registrants to have a nexus to the porn industry.

It’s always been kind of a bullshit rule, basically a hack to allow ICM to run a “sponsored” TLD under ICANN’s rules from the 2003 application round, but doing away with it would potentially make it easier for cybersquatters to get their hands on .xxx domains.

CSC told customers in a recent webinar that the rules are likely to be changed next year, increasing the risk of cybersquatting.

There’s some circumstantial evidence to suggest that CSC might be on to something — pretty much every “sponsored” gTLD from the same 2003 application round as .xxx has relaxed their reg rules to some extent, sometimes when their contracts come up for renewal and ICANN tries to normalize them with the text of the standard 2012-round agreement.

And GoDaddy’s .xxx contract with ICANN is being renegotiated right now. It was due to expire in March, but it was extended in February until December 15, a little under a month from now. We may soon see ICANN open up the new text for public comment.

Kirsch, who’s not part of the negotiations, could not confirm that the eligibility relaxation is going to happen or that it’s something GoDaddy is pushing for.

If it were to happen, it wouldn’t be for some time, and it wouldn’t necessarily impact on the December 1 deadline for Sunrise B conversions, which is going to be interesting to watch in its own right.

“There are registrations that are protecting people’s trademarks that are expiring and our primary objective here is to ensure that that protection continues, and that’s what we’ll do,” GoDaddy’s Kirsch said.

“If we just let them expire, it would create a lot of opportunity for brand infringement. Faced with that choice, our primary objective is to protect trademark owners,” he said.

Defensive windfall on the cards for .spa? It’s not just for spas any more

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2021, Domain Registries

Forthcoming new gTLD .spa has published its planned launch dates and registrations policies, and it’s not just for spas any more.

Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council, the registry, has informed ICANN that it plans to take .spa to sunrise for 30 days starting April 20 and expects to go to general availability around the start of July.

But despite being a “Community” gTLD under ICANN rules, it appears to be also marketing itself at any Italian company that uses the S.p.A corporate suffix, which is generally equivalent to the US Inc/Corp and UK Plc.

According to its eligibility criteria (pdf), under the heading “Coincidental Community Guidelines”, proof of an Italian business address should be enough for any SpA company to qualify to register.

The registry’s web site at nic.spa currently says:

Apart from the spa and wellness industry, .spa can also be a abbreviation to represent:

  • Società per Azioni (a form of corporation in Italy, Public Limited Companies By Shares)
  • Sociedad por acciones (Joint-stock company in South American Countries)

This offers a great opportunity for entitles in Italy and South American Countries to registered a wonderful name.

This is interesting, because ASPWC applied for .spa as a Community applicant dedicated to the spa and wellness industry.

The primary reason it’s getting to run .spa rather than rival applicant Donuts is that ASPWC won a Community Priority Evaluation, enabling it to avoid a potentially costly auction against its deeper-pocketed competitor.

There’s no mention of Italians or South Americans in its 2015 CPE result (pdf).

Donuts fought the CPE result in ICANN’s Cooperative Engagement Process for three years, but eventually backed away for unknown reasons.

In its original application, ASWPC spends a lot of time discussing its “intended use” of .spa and possible overlap with other meanings of the string. Among this text can be found:

The use of “S.p.A.” as a short form for the Italian form of stock corporation: “Società Per Azioni” is also relatively much less prevalent than the word as intended for the spa community. Furthermore, a more proper and popular way of denoting the form of corporation is “S.p.A.” with the periods included. While this is an important usage of the string “SpA”, the Registry believes that it should not take away from the significant meaning of the word “spa” in its intended use for the spa community as a TLD. Furthermore, additional preventive measures can be put in place to mitigate against any concerns for abusive utilization of the TLD in this manner.

I could find no text explicitly ruling out the Italian corporate use in the application, nor could I find any indication that it was part of the hard-C “Community” upon whose behalf ASWPC was applying for, and eventually won, the gTLD.

The application does seem to envisage some kind of reserved names list that could include S.p.A companies, but that doesn’t appear to be what the registry has in mind any more.

New rules could stop registries ripping off big brands

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2021, Domain Policy

New gTLD registries could be banned from unfairly reaching into the deep pockets of famous brands, under proposed rules soon to be considered by ICANN.

A recommendation approved by the GNSO Council last Thursday targets practices such as using reserved and premium lists to block trademark owners from registering their brands during sunrise periods, or charging them exorbitant fees.

It’s believed to target new TLDs that hope to copy controversial practices deployed by the likes of .sucks, .feedback and .top in the 2012 gTLD round.

The recommendations came in the final report of Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in All gTLDs working group, which suggests over 30 tweaks to policies such as Sunrise, Trademark Claims, Trademark Clearinghouse and Uniform Rapid Suspension.

While the recommendations almost all received full consensus of the working group, that’s largely because the group could not agree to any of the major changes that had been demanded by the intellectual property lobby.

The aforementioned RPMs will therefore not change a great deal for the next batch of new gTLD applicants.

Even the recommendation about not ripping off big brands is fairly weak, and may well be watered down to homeopathic levels by the forthcoming Implementation Review Team, which will be tasked with turning policy into practice.

This is the recommendation:

Sunrise Final Recommendation #1

The Working Group recommends that the Registry Agreement for future new gTLDs include a provision stating that a Registry Operator shall not operate its TLD in such a way as to have the effect of intentionally circumventing the mandatory RPMs imposed by ICANN or restricting brand owners’ reasonable use of the Sunrise RPM.

Implementation Guidance:

The Working Group agrees that this recommendation and its implementation are not intended to preclude or restrict a Registry Operator’s legitimate business practices that are otherwise compliant with ICANN policies and procedures.

The idea is that ICANN Compliance could come down on registries deploying unfair rules designed to rip off trademark owners.

Practices that have come in for criticism in the past, and are cited in the report, include:

.top’s attempt to charge Facebook $30,000 for facebook.top

.feedback registering thousands of brand-match domains to itself

.sucks placing brand-match domains in an expensive premium pricing tier

Famous Four Media doing the same thing

The working group could not agree on whether any of these should be banned, and it looks like the IRT will have a lot of wriggle room when it comes to interpret the recommendation.

Now that the GNSO Council has approved the RPM working group’s final report (pdf), it will be passed to the ICANN board of directors for consideration before the nitty-gritty work of translating words into reality begins.